Page 1605 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 12 May 2015

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improve the commonwealth’s bottom line, it has shifted a significant part of the future growth in health expenditure onto the states and territories.

Minister Corbell has provided significant and alarming information to the Assembly and to the broader community about the impacts of this cost shift and these cuts to the ACT. Effectively, the territory will have to manage a reduction in commonwealth support for public hospital services of $700 million over 10 years. So there will $700 million less coming into the territory to support essential public hospital services. The direct implications of these funding cuts are to healthcare services. It is time the Leader of the Opposition provided some answers about what he is doing to lobby his federal colleagues to stop these cuts.

What they will mean on the ground is a reduction in doctor and nurse numbers, a cessation of health services and the loss of jobs in the health sector. The funding provided by the commonwealth that is in support of public hospital services is spent on people—it pays the salaries of doctors, nurses, allied health staff and the administrative staff who support their important work. Having $700 million less from the commonwealth flowing into the territory’s health budget is an impost on the ACT economy more broadly.

We have been remarkably resilient in the last 18 months of slashing and burning by the commonwealth, but our economy cannot sustain a continuation of this sort of punishment. We need a federal government that understands the benefits to individuals and the community at large from a well-funded health system. Such an understanding is evident in the large number of services that this government provides to our community through our health system.

Besides the funding poured into health services—about $4 billion of the ACT’s $35 billion gross state product—and nearly $900 million in infrastructure spending in the coming years, nearly 7,000 people are employed in the ACT health sector. A healthy economy is reliant in large part on the health of its workers. Chronic disease is certainly associated with reduced productivity and reduced workforce participation. That is why we have a very clear focus on preventative health and programs such as the healthy weight initiative that incorporate practical and positive measures to get people’s health moving in the right direction, to improve dietary habits, exercise and other personal health measures. These programs are critically important.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that up to 80 per cent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and more than one-third of cancers worldwide could be prevented by eliminating shared modifiable risk factors—tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. Investment in preventative health is a critical part of improving health outcomes for the community and also improving economic outcomes.

It is well established that preventative and early detection programs make a difference in reducing health costs over time. This means less medical treatment, less time off work, better health outcomes and increased quality of life. ACT Health promotion programs that are targeting children, particularly focusing on instilling healthy behaviours and healthy choices early in life, are where we should be investing, and that is exactly what we are doing.

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